If you've played fantasy RPGs for any length of time, you have certainly collected a fair amount of gold coins. Gold is the coin of the adventurer's realm, as it were, with silver relegated to being pocket change and copper worthy only of a sniff of condescension. I want to a little bit of mental re-alignment here to show how skewed that mindset it.
Peruse the equipment lists of your preferred fantasy RPG. Ignoring specific numbers and certain oddball outliers (flint & steel, I'm looking at you), we begin to notice certain trends:
- Subsistence-level items, like a loaf of bread or a mug of ale, cost copper pieces.
- Sustainment-level items, like tools, basic clothing, and nightly shelter cost silver pieces.
- Things which cost gold pieces are either truly expensive tools or luxury items (and if you're a peasant, a sword or a suit of armor is a luxury)
For these people, copper is the only kind of money they use on a daily basis. They may occasionally see a silver if they have a particularly lucrative business (like a smithy) or if they sell livestock. They have never even seen a gold piece, much less touched one, and if you gave them one it would likely be more money than their family has ever had before. You, however, would be closer to a well-off merchant: you see silver all the time, occasionally some gold, and maybe once in your life you've seen a platinum piece.
Now let's apply this to the real world. A copper piece is worth roughly a dollar. We buy (cheap) meals for $5 - $10 all the time, and think nothing of it. It's disposable money to us, but to the lower classes -- those below the poverty line, on welfare and food stamps -- a dollar can make the difference between eating and going hungry.
Silver pieces aren't quite worth twenty dollars, but the $20 is so ubiquitous (as a result of ATMs) that it suits our purposes. This is where we, the middle class, spend most of our wealth: clothes, entertainment, quality food, entertainment, and either fuel for our cars or bus/train/cab fare. These things cost tens, but not hundreds, and while we may buy a lot of them we typically don't spend this money frivolously. A twenty, to us, is like a one or a five to a panhandler -- a basic unit of currency worth getting out of bed for.
Gold is for things which cost hundreds. Now it's important to note that in fantasy games, society does not yet have advanced metallurgical techniques and super-efficient assembly lines, so prices are often what we could consider exorbitant for consumer goods because of the cost of the raw materials and the time spent crafting them. But skip the Goods & Services table and look at the prices for armor and weapons. My father bought a handgun last week, and I came along because I think guns are neat. I did a lot of looking and window shopping while he picked out his gun, and I came to this conclusion:
Expect to pay $300 - $500, baseline, for a gun. It doesn't matter if it's a rifle, a shotgun, or a pistol, they simply don't go lower than $300 unless you buy used -- at which point you have to wonder if you're getting a discount because of a downward quality adjustment. The really, really good items, like a Desert Eagle .50 or a tricked-out AR-15 with a scope and a laser and a forward grip and all the other bells & whistles, can run over $1000. These would be roughly equivalent to a masterwork weapon.
And then there's this beast, which might be considered a +1 BFG of Ass-Whupping. Puts the price of a magic sword into perspective, doesn't it?
So in conclusion: fantasy games should run on the silver standard, not gold. The fact that adventures don't get out of bed for anything less than gold should serve as yet another indication that they are not, in fact, normal people, and their attitudes and goals are extraordinary rather than baseline.